2020 Instructors & Classes


2020 SummerSongs Classes and Teachers


Blues Singing for Non-Blues Singers

This singing workshop will begin with familiar techniques we use to communicate emotion in speech. That done, we’ll look for places to use them in songs. Simple. But, there is some alchemy to this. To be effective, we need both singer and audience. In the spirit of play, we will rotate through singers one at a time. Participants will have the opportunity to sing a verse or two, and then at my suggestion, try out small, specific changes in the delivery of a particular line. With the rest of the class as an audience, we will all get to feel how those small changes affect the emotional power of the song. Over the course of the workshop, all of us will come to appreciate that small changes in phrasing and delivery can affect how we experience a song. I have done this work with beginners, hobbyists, and professional singers on both sides of the color line. The work is impactful and durable. Because the voice is our most personal instrument, this is a private, closed class. What happens in class, feedback, experimentation, etc. is all protected. There will be no video or recording. If you like, you can speak of your own experience outside of class, but no one else’s. That privacy allows us to do this intimate work. I will be the only person to interact with each singer, offering feedback and explaining it. When not singing for me, the class will act as an audience, witnessing the emotional impact of the work (and gasping when it gets cooler!). Instruments are optional. Handouts: One sheet, a list of specific phrasing and lyric delivery techniques

Song Accompaniment Lab: Enriching Your Guitar Parts

The problem with most guitar instruction is that you have to start in the instructor’s territory, learning a new technique and a new piece of music. This popular course flips that on its head and takes advantage of the fact that guitar technique is easier to retain in the context of an existing accompaniment. Do you have a guitar part that you think could sound better? Feel stuck in what you know? Bring a song you’re still fine-tuning (or have played forever); we’ll listen and dress it up, while expanding your technique, knowledge, and musical thinking in the process. We’ll look at guitar alternatives like chord forms, altered tunings, strategic use of the capo, bass runs, use of dynamics, plus guitar and vocal coaching to help deliver the emotional content of the lyrics. Most musicians finish one arrangement, heave a sigh of relief and turn to the next song. Our goal is to take the next step, make another version and strengthen the piece by using all the artistic tools at our disposal. These are beautiful five-minute fixes with concrete guitar instruction built solidly on the foundation of what you already know. This is a perfect crossover class for singer-songwriters who play guitar, and for guitarists who sing. Guitars are required. Handouts: chord blank forms, fingerboard maps, one-page of music theory for guitarists.

A Phi Beta Kappa and honors graduate of Washington & Lee University, Ainslie came of age during the Civil Rights era and cultivated a powerful affinity for cross-cultural exchange. He has studied with elder musicians on both sides of the color line – in the Old-Time Southern Appalachian fiddle and banjo traditions, as well as Black Gospel and Blues. He plays this music with affection, authority, and power.  Armed with a variety of instruments – vintage guitars, a fretless gourd banjo, a one-string, homemade diddley bow (aka cigar box guitar) and carefully chosen historical personal anecdotes of his encounters with senior musicians across the South – Ainslie brings the history, roots music, and sounds of America alive.  On stage, in educational teaching concerts, workshops, and school residencies, Ainslie explores the African and European roots of American music and culture. His easy, conversational way with audiences and cross-disciplinary approach to the music consistently garners rave reviews from presenters, audiences, students, and teachers, alike. He is a masterful and thoughtful historian, storyteller, and musician.


Music Theory for Songwriters

Music Theory can be daunting to some, and thrilling to others.  With a focus on songwriting, we can demystify what daunts, and dive into why it can be a joyous adjunct for musical composition.  It is a powerful tool and used wisely, can help us visit new territory and sometimes get us out of a jam when we feel stuck.  It can also assist in writing charts, for those who want to record their songs with other musicians.

Collaboration:  The Art, Logic & Synergy of Co-Writing

Early on, in my decades-long career as a professional songwriter, I was asked by my publisher to write with other writers.  Having mostly written alone before that point, I had no idea how to do that.  Since then, I’ve developed a love, respect, and a preference for collaboration and all of my successful songs are joint works.  In this course, we’ll explore the numerous ways to navigate the collaborative process, and the power of synergy, artistically supporting the notion of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts.

Few voices have the power to cut to the bone like Pam Rose’s.  Layer that over her profound songwriting gift and her consummate musicianship on an assortment of instruments, and you begin to get a glimpse of a real artist.  With longtime writing partner Mary Ann Kennedy, Rose has been nominated for two GRAMMY Awards and has won praise for her powerful alliance with Mary Ann as the acclaimed duo Kennedy Rose. The twosome won the ear of rock star Sting and recorded two CDs for his private label Pangaea Records, a label he founded for “uncategorizable music.” As an added treat, they were asked to open for him on one of his World Tours.  As special guests of Emmylou Harris, Kennedy Rose also performed twice for President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Clinton, and later at the Nobel Peace Prize Presentation in Oslo, Norway.  As a solo artist, she has recorded CDs, “Morpheus,” “Fly” and most recently “The Temple Sessions.”  Since 2006, she has enjoyed a vibrant life of touring, rejoining Mary Ann Kennedy and touring as an acoustic trio with Emmylou Harris in North America and Europe, and traveling the world as a solo artist with Australian guitar virtuoso Tommy Emmanuel.  


Songwriting as Improvisation

Writing songs is an act of improvisation – you have to make it up and hope it’s worth saving. What you do *before* you write is almost as important as songwriting itself. I’ve developed several pre-writing games and exercises that will help put you in an improvisational frame of mind, in which you can play with music and words, and shake yourself loose from old habits and conventions.

Harnessing Poetry for Songwriting

Song lyrics are (usually) much closer to poetry than prose, using many of the same devices as poetry. In writing songs, we’re exercising both musical and poetic skill. We’ll explore techniques for using poetry to increase word awareness, explore subtleties of sound, melody, rhythm, rhyme, metaphor, and image, and as a launching point for writing new songs that take you to new places.

Pat Wictor first burst on the folk and acoustic scene as an innovative slide guitarist known for fresh and memorable interpretations of traditional and contemporary songs.  Since then he has made his mark as a singer-songwriter penning lean and poetic songs that honor – and subvert – rural blues and gospel traditions. For seven years he toured as one-third of Brother Sun, the powerful harmonizing trio with Joe Jencks and Greg Greenway, garnering critical acclaim, two #1 CDs on the Folk DJ charts, and a continent-spanning tour schedule.  Wictor’s newest recording is a duo album titled Counterpoise,  a collaboration with jazz vocalist Deborah Latz.   The two first sang together at a vocal improvisation workshop led by Bobby McFerrin.  His most recent solo release, This is Absolutely Real:  Visions and Versions of Phil Ochs reached #2 on the Folk-DJ charts and was nominated for Best Tribute Album by the Independent Music Awards.


Storytelling & Empathy and Compassion-based Songwriting

Flex your songwriting – as well as empathy and compassion – muscles by putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and discovering aspects of storytelling that best deliver a heartfelt & meaningful song. We’ll explore aspects of storytelling such as salient details, how and when to reveal information, showing vs. telling and how a melody can affect the way a story is shared. Participants will also (and this is always everyone’s favorite part of this workshop!) interview a partner using provided questions and write a song based on his or her story. Your partner will also write a song based on your story! If there’s time, we will also talk about best practices for writing custom songs for family, friends, fans, etc. All of these explorations and exercises will allow songwriters to connect more deeply with one another and to experience writing breakthroughs while having fun. 

Discover & Write Your Soul Song

In this course, you’ll explore writing a very personal song using a powerful song blueprint that is ubiquitous (it’s everywhere in popular music, folk music, rap, etc.). You’ll also explore how different parts of the self can uncover distinct points of view that can be used in your song. At first, we will explore what Maya Angelou, Sara Bareilles, and Rodgers & Hammerstein have to offer us about rhythm and melody as well as how the 8 main aspects of melody can help deliver your song’s message more authentically, distinctively and beautifully. Later in the week, we’ll use playful exercises involving crayons & other visual prompts to discover the message of your soul song. Using a step-by-step writing process, I’ll invite you to craft the verses and choruses to your Soul Song. We’ll also touch on the benefits of approaching your songwriting with an attitude of kindness & surrender. 

Singer-songwriter and pianist, Anne Heaton has captured audience imaginations for over fifteen years with her songs that are, by turns, “tender, barbed and spiritual” (Washington Post). She’s been featured on the New York Times Podcast, played numerous times on NPR and shared the stage with artists such as Jewel, Sarah McLachlan and jazz drummer Max Roach. The New York Times music podcast called her music “absolutely gorgeous” and with “To the Light” ~ her seventh studio album ~ Heaton is surrendering to her love of collaboration more than ever before.


Grain of Salt

Stuck somewhere in the middle? Here’s our ongoing interactive and participatory workshop for any songs or parts thereof that you might wish to have some input on. We’ll hear these songs-in-progress and become a collective think-tank about what’s working so far and what might be improved upon – “stars and wishes,” as we call it. It’s also an opportunity to hone your listening and feedback-giving skills as we work with each songwriter, and it’s an opportunity to ponder the many elements – lyric, melody, rhythm, chord progression, key, arrangement, etc. – that make a song click. And remember – take everything you hear here with a you-know-what.

Songwriter 101

It’s probably harder than it’s ever been to make a living as a songwriter.  So much music is being created, so much is freely passed around, and there’s so much deterioration of what I call “the collective attention span”.  Here’s a chance to engage on any number of subjects during the week – “all things songwriter” if you would.  It’ll be based on your specific inquiries and is designed as a drop-in class, freeing you up for other courses during the week but also providing an opportunity to address questions you have that may not be covered elsewhere.  This can include (but not be limited to) songwriting, arrangements, set construction, stage presence, getting organized, booking ideas, alternative markets, negotiating fees, music replication, the aspirations and realities of making music in this world, and more.  Let’s get together and bat it around.

David Roth has taught (and learned!) at SummerSongs since the camps began in 1999 and now serves as Executive Director. He’s a singer, songwriter, recording artist, and instructor who also won Kerrville’s New Folk Award in 1986 and “landslide top vote-getter” at Falcon Ridge’s Emerging Artist Showcase in 1996. David’s songs have found their way to Carnegie Hall, the United Nations, several Chicken Soup for the Soul books, the Kennedy Center, Peter, Paul, & Mary and Kingston Trio CDs, NASA’s Goddard Space Center (David’s “Rocket Science” went up on the Space Shuttle “Atlantis” in 2009), more than 100,000 textbooks in India, and 15 CDs on the Wind River and Stockfisch (Germany) labels. He also writes regularly for the Songs of Love Foundation (NY), creating free custom-made songs for sick children and their families. Featured on many of Christine Lavin’s seminal Rounder Records compilations, the former artist-in-residence at New York’s Omega Institute also directs the Cape Cod Songwriters Retreats, the Cape’s Full Moon Open Mic, and has taught singing, songwriting, and performance at the Augusta Heritage workshops (WV), Moab Folk Camp (UT), Common Ground on the Hill (MD), Rowe Camp and Conference Center (MA), Pendle Hill (PA), Lamb’s Retreat (MI), Wisconsin Stringalongs, the Woods Music and Dance Camp (Ontario), Empower Music & Arts (FL), the Swannanoa Gathering (NC), the National Wellness Institute (WI), and for many other songwriting groups and associations around the country. David also leads musical tours to Ireland and rafting trips on the Middle Fork of Idaho’s Salmon River. davidrothmusic.com (Photo credit: econosmith)


Sing!  Heart, Body, and Soul

Singing is fun!  Inside each of us lives a beautiful and unique instrument!  In this workshop, we will move our bodies, soften our hearts, open our mouths and let our voices out to play!  With an emphasis on vocal health and self-care, we will use a combination of vocal warm-ups and workouts, to help relax and strengthen the voice – making it more flexible and reliable. Individual attention and support are offered to each person in class as well as to the group as a whole.

Find Joy On Stage! 

This is all about performance. How to find your calm and peaceful center in the eye of the storm….in the eye of the energy of expression. How to claim space on stage and be in the beautiful and exciting moment of performing. Exploring the world of “owning it”! Experiencing being your authentic self and in-the-flow with an audience. Releasing your inner strengths and savoring the moment so you can perhaps remember your performance instead of the memory being erased by nervousness. Sloan will provide a safe and supportive atmosphere and we’ll explore song selection, intros, elements of taking care of yourself on and off stage, tools for preparing, practicing, facing and engaging happily with an audience. We’re gonna talk a little and check in with you to see what you need. Everyone will have a chance to perform.

Folk-pop artist Sloan Wainwright belongs to a musical dynasty of impossibly gifted singer-songwriters. Her family tree (brother and folk-music luminary Loudon Wainwright, sister-in-law Kate McGarrigle, nephew Rufus Wainwright, nieces Martha Wainwright and Lucy Wainwright Roche) reads like a who’s who of contemporary folk music. Sloan’s incredible gift is not only her unique songwriting ability but her dramatically voiced rendition of her original songs. Defying standard categorization, singer/songwriter Sloan Wainwright consistently demonstrates her easy command of a variety of American musical styles — pop, folk, jazz, and blues — held together by the melodious tone of her rich contralto. The end result, a unique and soulful hybrid. With a solid and impressive discography of 10 original CD releases to her credit, Sloan continues to write, sing and perform live. In addition, Sloan has written numerous musical compositions for theater and dance and teaches at many of the best-known master songwriter series and workshops. Sloan’s open spirit and first-hand experience are welcomed –year after year– in the musical classrooms of such prestigious song camps as The Swannanoa Gathering, SummerSongs, WinterSongs, WUMB Radio’s Summer Acoustic Music Week (SAMW), and Lamb’s Retreat.


Info coming soon!


Mid-day Potpourri

Master musician, engineer, and SummerSongs staple Mark Dann will again offer his mid-day variety of different one-time classes which will include guitar setup and adjustments, basic chart writing, learn how to accompany anybody on the bass in one class – even if you’ve never held a bass in your hands before – and Garageband 101 (Mac users).  Come to any or all!

Mark Dann is a professional recording engineer and sideman/bass player extraordinaire. For more than 30 years, he has worked with hundreds of artists at his studios in New York City and Woodstock, including engineering and playing on the legendary Fast Folk Musical Magazine recordings. markdann.com


Writing Humorous Songs

As an artist, I love to reflect on things that weren’t funny at all when they happened and try to look at them through the lens of humor. I have found that even using touches of humor in my songwriting can often allow the listener to really hear the message on a deeper level. In this workshop, we are going to inject some humor into our songwriting. Ideally, you will get a great start on writing a completely humorous song. To start with, we will reflect on something in our life that could be viewed in a different way, then we will free-write about it, and launch from there. We will be writing every day, and hopefully, each of us will have a new humorous song to add to our setlist by the end of the week. Bring paper, pencil, and your recording device. This class will be sequential, so it can’t be a drop-in class after the 2nd day.

As an artist, I love to reflect on things that weren’t funny at all when they happened and try to look at them through the lens of humor. I have found that even using touches of humor in my songwriting can often allow the listener to really hear the message on a deeper level. In this workshop, we are going to inject some humor into our songwriting. Ideally, you will get a great start on writing a completely humorous song. To start with, we will reflect on something in our life that could be viewed in a different way, then we will free-write about it, and launch from there. We will be writing every day, and hopefully, each of us will have a new humorous song to add to our setlist by the end of the week. Bring paper, pencil, and your recording device. This class will be sequential, so it can’t be a drop-in class after the 2nd day.


Slow Jam Guitar Circle

Join Glen in a swirling circle of fun where you will learn – in slow motion – to play one or two (maybe three) upbeat songs the way he plays them. After Glen gives a quick demo we’ll take a song apart then start learning and playing it together, unpacking the many technique lessons it holds.

  • A guitar is required.
  • May involve some bar chords, but you’re invited even if bar chords are new to you.
  • Drop-ins are welcome to snatch a lesson or two.
  • Singing is not a requirement, but you might not be able to help yourself!

Glen Roethel, guitarist/vocalist/songwriter/entertainer, helps kindle the energy of the SummerSongs experience. Study guitar, songwriting, harmony, and performance with him, and take part in his legendary late-night jam-singalong-dance parties which ring out in the night – when the moment feels right – after the evening coffeehouses have wrapped up. He is an award-winning songwriter and 3-time nominee for emPower Posi Awards (Positive music), a jury-selected performer at NERFA, and also at the Singer-Songwriter Cape May festival, and 2020 Gold prize winner at Mid Atlantic Songwriting Contest (MASC) for “Too Much Crying,” which he wrote and recorded with Us!, his socially-minded trio with Judy Kass and Amy Soucy. He saw his song “Namaste” featured in a multi-media exhibit at the Presidential Museum in Texas for three months, and songs published in New Thought songbooks and a Hal Leonard Corp songbook. To Glen’s credit are six self-produced CDs and beautiful compilation CDs (emPower Music & Arts) of songs about healing, the magic of the winter holiday season, and congregational songs, not to overlook his guitar/bass/vocal/ukulele/keyboard/percussion performances and co-writes on gorgeous and award-winning recordings by Penny Nichols, Sue Riley, David RothSloan Wainwright, Jan Garrett & JD Martin, and many others. glenroethel.com


Voices in Harmony

One of the greatest joys of making music is singing together in harmony. It can add depth, fullness, warmth, interest, beauty, and just plain FUN to your songs. It is also a perfect metaphor for life: We can all sing varied notes in our unique voices, but if we listen carefully to one another and proceed with grace and a little skill, we make ONE beautiful sound together, greater than the sum of its parts. Beauty, fun, and world peace! What could be better? This class will teach you what harmony actually is, and help you acquire listening and vocal skills to get you comfortable singing simple harmonies for sing-a-longs, performances, and even developing original arrangements for your own songs. This is an all voices on deck class – we will sing from day one, and will perform together IN HARMONY at the student show. And if time permits I’ll help you add harmonies to each other’s songs.

Melinda Wood Allen is a singer/songwriter/actress/choral director whose career has spanned many genres: opera, musical theatre, jazz, folk, rock, gospel, & country…even a little rap. She firmly believes that music is not a spectator sport—that everyone has a voice and a gift to share, and she loves helping ‘musically wounded’ or shy people find their gifts! She delights in making music with ensembles large and small and has a passion for the harmony only voices singing together can create. Melinda is the director of the Empower Posi World Chorus, and her (all-volunteer) choirs have performed to thousands at D/FW venues and at Carnegie Hall. melindawoodallen.com


Dream Songs

In this class, we will venture into the mystical dimension of dreams and emerge with songs.  We will begin with a brief discussion about the nature of the dream world and how to explore it.  We will commit to an atmosphere of safety, respect and good humor.  Then, and for subsequent classes, we will have a brief group meditation where we cultivate the openness necessary to receive from the dream world.  In each class, all students will have a chance to share a dream, consider with the group what its message might be, and gradually transform that dream into a most interesting song.  Dreams provide us with compelling images and narratives that can broaden us and morph into extraordinary songs.  This class requires adventurousness because one never quite knows what dreams may reveal.  Thus students are free to refrain from sharing whenever they like.  It is recommended that each interested student, before camp, prepare by considering what dream, old or new, they might like to work with.  Sleep on it.

Steven is a clinical psychologist, author and singer/songwriter. As a psychologist, Steven has had a successful psychotherapy practice for over 30 years. As an author, he has numerous professional publications, often exploring the integration of psychology and spirituality. He has given talks on dream interpretation, psychology and soul and the psychology of music.  He is also a published science fiction author.  As a musician, Steven has been writing songs for over 25 years.  He performs, as “Dr. Steve,” throughout Connecticut and fronts “The Dr. Steve Band.” Steven lives with his wife Nancy in rural Connecticut.  They have 2 lovely daughters. drstevesongs.com



In these sessions, we will take advantage of the beautiful landscape around us as we translate our three-dimensional world to two-dimensions. Through our attempts at “getting it right” and creatively expressing ourselves, we will make personal and experimental watercolors. Music and art share formal concerns like tone and rhythm, structure and improvisation. No experience necessary, and materials will be provided. Come experience the fluidity of watercolor!

Kamilla Talbot has exhibited her work in numerous shows in the US and Scandinavia. Solo shows include The 360 Space, NY; Trygve Lie Gallery, NY; Charles P. Sifton Gallery, Brooklyn, NY; Bruno Marina Gallery, Brooklyn, NY; and at the Johannes Larsen Museum, Denmark. Artist residencies include a fully-funded residency at the Vermont Studio Center, as well as grants to paint in Italy, Newfoundland, Iceland, and Maine. She studied at the New York Studio School and The Rhode Island School of Design. She teaches or has taught at The Art Students League; the National Academy School; Brooklyn Botanic Garden; New York Studio School; New York School of the Arts; as well as privately. www.kamillatalbot.com @kamillatalbot


Mid-Day Reflections

Here’s another opportunity to explore how you’re feeling about a song you’ve been working on.  Is it finished? Does it work?  Do the words say what you want them to say?  Is the story clear?  Is it funny? Moving? The right length?  Each day we’ll gather in a small group, and gently explore the strengths and weaknesses of each song, trying at all times just to answer the questions YOU bring to the group about your song.

Julie Snow is a Boston-based singer-songwriter whose songs are infused with heart and humanity. Starting with songs recorded by Lui Collins in the late 1970s and early ’80s, it has been her goal to both entertain and inspire, above all hoping to create connection through her music. Her early songs have been recorded by a variety of folk artists, and Julie has recorded two albums of her own songs since coming to Summersongs for the first time in 1999. She has been co-leading a song circle for songwriters in NH for the past 8 years, and helping other songwriters with their writing is one of her passions.